Why Facebook is the Ultimate Computer Game

Think about it.

You create a Facebook account.  Then what?  You begin to accumulate friends, build a profile, and design what you believe is the closest equilibrium between the real you and the virtually desirable you.  Ostensibly, you are engaging in an activity, like any fundamental online game, that can be scored and measured using universal standards.  Obviously people will play the game differently; some will choose to gain the most friends, be tagged in the most pictures, or join the most groups.  Some people will design their profile hoping to attract “friends of value”, or people who possess certain desirable qualities that make the user feel as if they’ve “won” because these desirable people want to be one’s friend.  Updates and interface changes in past years has changed or evolved most of these aspects on Facebook, but there was once a time when your number of friends and amount of wall posts was public information.  Other social networking sites can be measured using the same or similar standards.  On twitter your profile has been boiled down to a picture, a brief bio, and basic stats which include how many people you’re following, how many are following you, and how many times you’ve tweeted.  And so the game begins.  The whole concept behind Twitter is that people will follow or unfollow you based on what you say. Yes, people tweet because they have something on their mind, but the basic function of Twitter suggests that to an extent, the user will carefully consider what they say because it could benefit or hurt their quest to gain followers.  Additionally, one’s “expertise” or “level” can be determined based on a simple algorithm using Twitter’s provided stats about the user.  In order for all of this to actually work, to sustain its competitive game-like nature, these sites thrive on the basic concept of human’s desiring affirmation from others.  We seek approval from others, shaping our own identities based on the responses of family and friends to our actions.  This is not a new concept; in fact it is a very, very old concept, however in recent years programmers and innovators have found a way to take one of our most basic and essential human aspects and digitize it.  It is truly remarkable how such a basic human truth has remanifested itself in a form applicable to the modern technology and trends of our generation.  With the understanding that harvesting this fundamental human truth can lead to great success, I believe that future social trends, no matter how technologically advanced they may be, will essentially boil down to what is known as “the human factor”.